Spotlight returns to Iran’s nuclear programme

VIENNA/IRAN (AFP) – Tehran’s nuclear programme is back under the spotlight after the United Nations (UN) nuclear watchdog revealed the extent of Iran’s uranium enrichment drive and reprimanded it for denying access to two locations.

The revelations may lead to heated exchanges at the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) latest quarterly board of governors meeting which started in Vienna yesterday.

Since May 2019, Iran has announced successive breaches of the deal struck four years earlier with world powers which restricted its nuclear programme in exchange for sanctions relief.

The breaches were in reaction to United States (US) President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the agreement in 2018 and reimposition of harsh sanctions on Iran. The latest announcement came in January, when Iran said it was no longer bound by any restrictions on its nuclear programme.

An IAEA report issued on March 3 said that the announcement itself did not lead to any noticeable changes, but also revealed the cumulative effect of Iran’s previous breaches. There has been a dramatic increase in Iran’s uranium stockpile, which now stands at over 1,000 kilogrammes – more than five times the limit fixed in the deal.

The centrifuges being used for enrichment are also more numerous and more advanced than foreseen under the deal.